mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Iraq Disintegrates
Russian Jets Point to New Alignment in Iraq

Russia made moves toward a new Middle Eastern alliance, and Maliki’s Iraq delivered a rebuke to America yesterday, when Iraq accepted the delivery of Russian jet fighters to help in the battle against ISIS. Haaretz reports:

The first five Sukhoi Su-25 attack aircraft would enter service in “three to four days,” according to the report. […] At the same time, Maliki criticized the United States for taking too long to deliver F-16 jets ordered by Iraq. On Friday, Iraqi Air Force Commander Hameed al-Maliki confirmed that he had signed contracts for the purchase of Russian MI-35 and MI-28 attack helicopter to “keep up the momentum” in the attacks against the Sunni insurgents, Ruptly news agency reported.

The delivery of these jets indicates an emerging Russian tilt toward the Shia powers in the Middle East crisis. Historically, this is an oddity, given Russia’s longstanding support for the secular Sunni government of Saddam Hussein. But in the current context, it makes sense. 

Russia had already been the principle backer of Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian Civil War, and it sees Shiite Iran as a partner in the region. Meanwhile, Putin fears Sunni radicalism more than Shia radicalism. Among other concerns, there are Chechens fighting on the side of ISIS and its allies in Iraq and Syria. Given America’s very public doubts over whether to assist the Maliki government, Russia clearly sees an opening.

The New York Times reports that it sent not only jets but also experts to assist Iraq. Ordinary Iraqis, unfortunately, are about to learn more about the resource curse. Iraq’s oil wealth will ensure a huge flow of advanced weapons into the civil war, driving the death and devastation to horrifying levels.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Andrew Allison

    Considering the hatred the US has engendered in Afghanistan and Pakistan, when Russian aircraft start killing Iraqi civilians, it may come regret its opportunism. Happily, it is providing the US with an excuse to stay out of this tar-pit.
    “Iraq’s oil wealth will ensure a huge flow of advanced weapons into the civil war, driving the death and devastation to horrifying levels.” is simplistic. Thanks to the Iraqi army, the US has supplied more than enough weaponry to IS to achieve that end. Iran and Russia are doing the same for the regime. Only the Kurds would need to actually buy weapons, as if they not only have more than enough already, and they have taken over the North-Eastern oil fields. The thinking and commentary about the situation in Iraq is mindless.

  • Curious Mayhem

    The Su-25 are high-performance, high-speed attack jets pretty unsuitable for what the Iraqi government needs. Probably the Russians just need the tax write-off for charitable donations 😛

    • OldHogDriver

      Actually, The SU-25 is a low performance, close-air-support aircraft in the mold of the A-10. The ‘experts’ the Russians are sending probably include

      pilots, otherwise the aircraft would not be operational in such a short period. The SU-25 is perfectly suited for an air war against ISIS. It is not sophisticated — it carries a gun and heavy air-ground ordnance. Its a mud machine, and can be operated in an austere environment. Its exactly what the Shia Iraqi government needs…..

      • Diws

        Yep, a poor man’s A-10. And the Iraqi air force already has some experience operating these, though I’m not sure how many pilots are still around from the 1980’s

        • B-Sabre

          As noted above, these will probably be flown by Russian/Byelorussian/Ukranian ‘contract pilot’ (aka mercenaries) in order to get them into the fight quickly. The Russians have done this for several air forces in Africa.

          • Curious Mayhem

            Actually, all correct. I was confusing it with another plane. But the lack of a large number of pilots and supplies will make these not very useful.

  • El Gringo

    By all means, let the Russians take a whack at it. They’ve done a fine job in Syria and allying themselves with the uber-popular Shiites will endear them to nobody in the region. And when ISIS shoots down and captures the first Russian “advisor” it will be time to break out the popcorn because that is going to be a spectacle.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service